Jul 112011

Many Chicano activists refer to Mexicans as “La Raza”, literally “the race”. “Dia de la Raza” is celebrated on Columbus Day (October 12) as the day the Mexican indigenous population started their resistance against the European invasion.

Racial classification in colonial times

Racial classification in colonial times (Click to enlarge)

The term “La Raza” derives from a 1948 book “La Raza Cósmica.” The author Jose Vasconcelos’ thesis is that Mexicans (who he defines as a combination of indigenous and European bloodlines) are a new superior race. In developing his thesis, Vasconcelos draws upon many concepts including Marxism; he felt Europeans were too materialistic and capitalistic. He suggested that Mexicans have evolved (à la Darwin) into a new race that would be a world leader in the years ahead. The Government of Mexico tacitly agreed with this approach which engendered national pride. It was also consistent with the government’s post Mexican Revolution view that all ethnic groups should be combined into a common Mexican national identity.

According to the 2010 census, about 15% consider themselves indigenous, though about 58% of these do not speak any indigenous language. Assuming the “white” and “other” categories are still about 10% and 2% respectively, this suggests that today about 73% are mestizos. Almost all people in Mexico refer to themselves simply as “Mexicans”, not as indigenous Mexicans or mestizos or whites.

Vasconcelos’ “Raza Cósmica” and most Mexicans overlook the historical fact that Mexicans have an important African heritage. Between 100,000 to 200,000 African slaves were brought into Mexico during the 16th through 18th centuries, nearly a quarter the number brought to the USA. In 1646 there were 35,000 African slaves in Mexico, more than 2.5 times the white population [see Blacks outnumbered Spaniards in Mexico until after 1810]. These slaves represented about 12% of the total population, roughly equal to the percentage of slaves in the USA before 1860.

Mexico’s second president, Vicente Guerrero, whose mother was partially Black, abolished slavery in 1829. Thousands of Blacks moved into Mexico from the USA before it abolished slavery in 1865. However, today there are very very few black faces in Mexico. One can spend weeks in Mexico’s major cities without seeing a Black Mexican. If one pays close attention, they can identify people of African heritage in a few selected communities in Veracruz and along the Costa Chica in Guerrero and Oaxaca [Bobby Vaughn’s homepage: Afro-Mexicans of Costa Chica ].

What happened to all the Blacks in Mexico?  [Blacks in Mexico] In a word they assimilated by having offspring with other racial groups. In colonial times, the Catholic Church went to great lengths to categorize intermixed races for marital and baptism purposes:

The terminology for racial mixes

Complex terminology for racial mixes

Before too long, nobody could keep all the combinations straight! Eventually, everyone of mixed race was considered a mestizo. The African portion was purposely or accidentally dropped.

Modern research, based on DNA, indicates that Mexican mestizos are genetically about one-eighth African [mtDNA Affinities of the Peoples of North-Central Mexico]. While Brazil is often identified as the world’s foremost melting pot, the evidence suggests that in Mexico the races have melted more than in any other country.

While there are very few black faces in Mexico, there is a great deal of African heritage represented in art, music, dance, food, and even in fishing and agricultural practices. Did you know that the popular Mexican song “La Bamba” recorded by Richie Valens, Los Lobos and others can be traced back to the Bamba district of Angola? As part of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ famous voyage, the Government of Mexico finally acknowledged officially that Africa was Mexico’s “Third Root”.

  7 Responses to “The “Cosmic Race” (La “Raza Cósmica”) excludes Mexico’s African heritage”

  1. Richie Valens, who wasn’t even Mexican but Mexican-American is constantly used as one of the leading evidences of “African influence in Mexico”. I find the vast amount of logical fallacies you, Afrocentrists, are willing to use to try to prove your point not offensive but pathetic.

  2. Thanks for your interesting comment. The point made in the post is only that the Mexican song “La Bamba” has links to Angola. The mention of Richie Valens as a singer who made the song famous is incidental to the main points made in the post.

  3. Thank you for the clarification, TB! But don’t be fooled by Eduardo’s comments. He knows exactly what is meant by qualifying the song, La Bamba, by evoking the name of Richie Valens. His true antipathy is directed towards “Afrocentrists” and he uses this smokescreen to deal with his own internalized hatred. Read anything by Franz Fanon to see what I mean.

    What is truly “pathetic” is his feeble attempt to distort reality. We who know our history and can assess and evaluate facts objectively can see right through him!

  4. Hi, I want to know why Mexico ignores the fact that we all have Negroid descent. I have always wondered why people treat the Mexicans with African features differently. Don’t we all come from the same place? Why is it a hidden fact?

  5. Olivia, Thanks for taking the time to share your viewpoint. Over a long time scale (thousands of years), you are, of course, completely correct that we all came “out of Africa”. Over a shorter time scale (past few hundred years to present), it is also clear that the descendents of people more recently arrived from Africa do share some distinctive “features”, though this should certainly not mean they are treated differently with respect to any any other individuals. TB

  6. Hi, thanks for responding. I recently found out that I am a descendent of an African woman. She is my great-grandmother on my father’s side. Both of my parents are Mexican. My brothers and sister look like my mom and share her features. I look a lot like my father , and have a small resemblance of African person. Because of this asked if I was mixed. The reason why I was asking if Mexicans with Negro features are treated differently is because I have felt uncomfortable around them. I was treated differently. I feel comfortable around African-American people, but yet they don’t include me as one of them. It has been hard to feel like I belong somewhere.

  7. Did you know that COSMIC RACE refers to all Americas people??? Mexico is just a little part of the Americas Dude. Take care of it. And it is suposed that The Latin American Cosmic Race Individuals, will never discriminate or exclude any individual from other race, the superiority of the fifth race now forming in all americas is precisely not cosiderer itself superior!

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